Entries Tagged '2.0' ↓

Is the portal the application?

This is a question I remember tossing around eight or nine years ago when I was an analyst tracking the enterprise portal market at Giga Information Group.

Those from the application integration world tended to see portals as empty frameworks (with authentication and customization services) into which apps or data sources could be plugged. But those (like me) that came from from the search and information access world saw a portal as encompassing more functionality in and of itself for collaboration, search and information access. So is the portal an entry point or a destination?

This question hasn’t reared its head in awhile since portal products were mostly subsumed into the application platforms of IBM, BEA and Oracle — as pretty generic portal frameworks. Even SAP’s portal has been mostly a UI to SAP’s apps as opposed to one itself.

But with the advent of social computing, the question seems to be returning. I met with open source portal play Liferay this week, a vendor that is busy adding social software capabilities to its portal. Liferay notes many customers, particularly in Europe, still looking for traditional portal framework capabilities, for the portal to serve as an aggregation point for accessing other apps.

Here in the US, Liferay is seeing more requests for integrated collaboration capabilities, like profiles, wikis, blogs and discussion forums, that are delivered to end users in the portal itself. The company is even toying with out how best to refer to its product in this new world. Is it still a portal?

Liferay isn’t the only portal vendor taking such steps. The BEA AquaLogic User Interaction group (the horribly named result of BEA’s 2005 Plumtree acquisition) has been busy adding social capabilities as well, packaged up in a new 6.5 release announced this week. It’s hard to know what to make of this, given the Oracle acquisitionMike Gotta goes so far as to ask “Should I Pay Attention to BEA?” and Janus Boye is equally pessimistic about the prospects for BEA’s two portal products. But the AquaLogic group has done a nice job enhancing that portal and Pathways is one of the only enterprise tagging tools on the market (Connectbeam has another).

BEA’s portals aren’t likely to fair well post acquisition because Oracle already has two of its own. But Oracle WebCenter is the one getting the social software enhancements and the one likely to be Oracle’s main pick going forward. SAP and Microsoft are others making portals more social.

What will be interesting to watch is how these portal-based approaches make out in the nascent market for enterprise social software. They’re potentially up against SaaS offerings and on-premise tools that don’t require the portal overhead.

A good example of this is the Clearspace product from Jive Software, which also revved this week to a 2.0 version (and incidentally added customizable start pages to which users can add widgets…sound like the start of a portal?). With these new products, are we eliminating the services of the portal framework – authentication/single sign-on, customization, integration? Or maybe just the portal name?

Marketing as a two-way dialogue

It’s not a secret that The 451 Group isn’t the largest of analyst firms. We plain and simple don’t have as many analysts as the biggest firms — don’t get me wrong, we have about 35, we’re not exactly tiny. But still, we have bigger coverage areas (we have a bit of a different focus which makes this work). There are pros and cons to this but one of the biggest pros is being able to look across a larger area at what sometimes seem to be unrelated or parallel trends to see the intersection. This can be difficult when you’re really heads-down covering one fairly narrow sliver of IT (I speak from experience on that one).

I split my time pretty evenly between content management (in a broad sense) and what we used to call team collaboration but is really now enterprise social software. I’m not alone in these areas. There are several folks here that also work on social software in particular as social computing is starting to impact so many other sectors (search, CRM, app development, etc.). In particular I work with Vishy Venugopalan who covers mash-ups and other types of social application development and our new research associate Anne Nielsen who joined us just recently to specifically help out in the area of social software (yay, welcome Anne!).

But I digress. What I wanted to talk about was a particular intersection point between content management and social software. For internal deployments, this intersection is pretty obvious. As team collaboration gets more social, blogs, wikis, profiles, shared tags and so forth are natural extensions for internal collab tools. Even though the cultural changes can be difficult, from a pure technology perspective, it’s not a stretch to see that a content management tool like Microsoft SharePoint, that started out in content management, must quickly morph into social software.

But what about on the external side, where social software is deployed in customer-facing environments? (I really am getting to the title of this blog post…). Web content management, the traditional home of an organization’s customer-facing web presence, is more and more about online marketing, figuring out how best to test and target content to increase “success” (however that is defined on a particular site).

At the same time marketers are investing more to analyze the success of campaigns, test offers and automate content and product recommendations, they’re also delving into the world of customer communities and user-generated content. Social software is increasingly being used to solicit customers for feedback, enable customers or site visitors to socialize with each other, and use social tools to better support, retain and increase the value of customers.

Are online marketing (targeting, personalization, advertising) and customer communities different things? Of course not.  Community contributions (votes, comments, blog posts) can make marketing more of a two-way dialogue,  not to mention the fact that explicit contributions could be a goldmine user data on which to base offers and recommendations.

Are early efforts in online marketing and customer communities separate, siloed, manned with separate technologies? Mostly. Are customers looking to change this? Not yet. But they will once they’re more experienced and successful in both areas.

This will have an impact on how these markets (online marketing and social software) consolidate and grow. It’s still early days, but definitely something I’ll be looking at a lot as I cover (with help!) both areas.

The state of ECM…and knowledge management?

I had a strategic counsel call last week with a large vendor thinking about expanding its product portfolio in the direction of ECM. We discussed whether this investment should be in the area of records management and archiving or full-boat document management with BPM.

Well, according to AIIM’s recent “State of the ECM Industry” survey, 2008 spending plans are focused on the records, documents, and processes, so it seems either bet could be a smart one. John Mancini elaborates:

At the top of the list of spending plans for the next 12-18 months are workflow/BPM (45% planning a spending increase), document management (45%), and records management (43%).

The whole AIIM survey is available and is interesting reading if you follow ECM.

Another thing I noted in these survey results is that only 5% of respondents plan to spend “much more” than last year on “Enterprise 2.0.” This is the same amount that plans to spend “much more” on knowledge management. And 24% of respondents plan to spend “slightly more” this year on “knowledge management,” compared to only 20% on “Enterprise 2.0.”

I wonder what they put in the knowledge management bucket that’s separate from “Enterprise 2.0?” I would certainly argue that social networking and related technologies are the latest-and-greatest type of knowledge management, especially when you’re talking about internal deployments. We even went so far as to delete ‘knowledge management’ from our taxonomy...

AIIMing for social software

No surprise really that social software, social publishing and other types of socializing were hot topics this week at the AIIM show here in Boston. I started out the week at Drupalcon (co-located at AIIM this year), the community event for the open source Web publishing tool Drupal. This was my first time at Drupalcon, or really at any open source user event of this size. A couple things struck me. First and most superficially, I stuck out a bit both due to my rather corporate-looking business attire (sorry guys) and because of my gender — a comment was made at the start of the event that the attendees were 93% male.

But much more interesting was the level of engagement. Cheers and audience participation during the keynote by project lead Dries Buytaert were plentiful. The event was packed (there were 800 attendees and they had expected 500) and there appeared to be a high level of engagement among folks in the sessions and the hallways. (And I wasn’t the only one sticking out for looking a little corporate – I think the guys from Acquia, the new Drupal start-up were in the same boat. 451 Group clients can read our write-up on Acquia here (log-in required)).

AIIM didn’t have the same level of excitement but there was still a common thread between the two events. Part of Drupal’s popularity is due to its community features and the availability of modules to add capabilities like feed management, voting and so forth. Other vendors that fall into a broadly defined content management market are busy adding similar capabilities either to WCM tools that will ultimately deliver community features to site visitors or to content contributor UIs within apps themselves. I met with folks from Day Software, Alfresco, IBM, Salesforce.com and Oracle and support for communities, collaboration and user-generated content are hot topics. Interestingly, it was not a focus during a meeting with Google — no social features appear particularly imminent for Google’s Search Appliances.

I also attended an interesting session held by Tony Byrne of CMS Watch. Tony looked at CMS architectures and how those companies wishing to implement external communities or to support user-generated content on external sites may end up with best-of-breed tools for architectural reasons, even though WCM vendors are adding support for these features themselves. Interesting stuff.

There was no sense of irrational exuberance at AIIM though, not like last year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference that had a jammed showcase floor and overflowing sessions. AIIM is a massive show though and as it is co-located with the On Demand show, it’s an odd mix of photocopiers, printing machines and enterprise software. Several ECM vendors I met with including SpringCM, Xythos (which I found out was acquired by Blackboard last year in a deal that has been kept totally quiet), Hyland Software and Tower Software are much more focused on more traditional ECM problems, from process management to archiving, which are alive and well.

Google Apps Team Edition

An interesting follow-up to yesterday’s post about Google’s role as a provider of enterprise social software. A free Team Edition of Apps (lacks email) will make it easier for business groups within the same domain to use Google Docs and shared calendars without involving IT. So it has some benefits over simply using individual Google accounts, at least if those you want to collaborate with are on the same domain. Another way for average users to get their own access to web-based collaborative tools

Google as a social app

We did a webinar this morning on enterprise social software, mostly presenting some high-level results of a survey we did with ChangeWave Research and analysis of the survey data and the market for our new special report on social software.

We had some Q&A at the end of the session using the web meeting software. I didn’t get to answer all the questions on the call as we ran out of time but have been going through the questions that queued up. There were several on Google and specifically on whether or not Google’s current enterprise offerings (Google Apps mostly) are “social.”

I don’t think it’s particularly useful to spend time debating whether or not Google Docs is social software. It’s a useful tool – I use it fairly regularly to collaboratively author documents and to share them with folks inside and outside of the company. That’s certainly a collaborative app and in some ways it’s definitely more collaborative than Microsoft Office (though I find the revision tracking with Google much more difficult).

But what strikes me about all these Google questions is the mindshare Google already has in the market, whether or not it has the tools. That’s part of what we found in our survey and what I discussed this morning on the webinar. In our survey, 18% of those currently using or planning to use social software (defined in this report as social networking, blogs, wikis and social bookmarking) in their organizations use or plan to use Google. I’m not sure what products / services exactly as Google doesn’t even really have enterprise offerings in these specific categories. But there you have it. And then a good chunk of the questions I had on the content were on Google. It’s definitely a ripe market for Google, if and when it decides to pick it.

Upcoming webinar on social software adoption

I’ll be doing a short webinar next week covering some of the high-level data we gathered in a survey on social software. The survey is the basis of a new report, The New Social Order, that looks at early adoption trends in social software, drivers for adoption and some early trends in vendor preferences.

The webinar will review:

  • Survey data on the state of adoption of social software
  • The types of initiatives for which organizations are using blogs, wikis, social networking, and social tagging and bookmarking tools
  • How adoption of social networking technologies in the enterprise is further blurring the line between consumer and corporate technologies
  • Vendor preferences of enterprise users for social software.

Webinar will take place on Wednesday the 6th of February from 12:00 to 12:30pm EDT.

Click here to register

Talking ’bout a generation…

Three cheers for this post from Alan Pelz-Sharpe over at CMS Watch entitled “Debunking the Google Generation Myth.” He cites a UK study that found little substantive difference between a “new generation” entering the workforce and the rest of us.

I’m awfully tired of hearing about how enterprises need to change their applications to suit this “new generation.” I’m not doubting that kids graduating from college today are more tech-savvy than, say, my mother (who gets around email and the web pretty well herself these days), but since when do large employers change corporate culture and process to make new employees, what, happier? More comfortable? And are kids graduating from college today in a position to be so choosy that the UIs of enterprise applications are a factor as they choose between jobs? Outside of the tech industry where individuals are paid to show initiative with technology projects, how many first-year employees have the nerve (or inclination) to start a skunkworks social software project if the corporate app they’re expected to use doesn’t work like Facebook?

I’m not saying that corporate cultures don’t change or that they won’t, slowly, evolve as technology and technology users change. This has always been the case and will continue to be so. But there are so many more interesting (and legitimate) reasons for organizations to look at social software than because a ‘new generation demands’ it. Getting important discussions out of email and into a forum where they can be more broadly shared and retained, enabling far-flung colleagues and partners to find and work with each other more easily, and doing a better job organizing and sharing the ever-increasing onslaught of information, are a few such reasons.